The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – better known to the average layperson as the ATF – is, like many federal agencies, a government organization that people tend to be curious about. The Bureau was at one time part of the United States Treasury Department and the agents therein were essentially glorified tax collectors. Now, however, it is an integral division within the Department of Justice, and the job of an ATF agent is one that is equal parts exciting, challenging, demanding, and rewarding.
The job of the ATF as a federal bureau is to carry out the enforcement of laws related to the unlawful trafficking, sale, and distribution of alcohol and tobacco, firearms trafficking, and to investigate violent crimes involving arson and explosives. Agents work in ATF field offices throughout the country and are often required to work long hours and to travel extensively. They carry out investigations into criminal organizations and dangerous, violent criminal offenders.
Some of the specific job duties of an ATF agent include:
- Working with state and local law enforcement agencies in investigating relevant crimes
- Carrying out investigations into crimes involving fire and arson
- Preparing and carrying out search warrants
- Collecting and analyzing evidence
- Writing reports
- Providing testimony during criminal trials
Those interested in becoming an ATF agent are required to have a bachelor’s degree or a minimum of three years of prior law enforcement experience. There is a very extensive screening process involved in being hired on with the ATF including a criminal background check, medical and polygraph examinations, and a physical capabilities test. Prospective agents are also required to be between 21 and 37 years of age and be registered for selective service.
Once selected, agents begin their careers with a three month training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center followed by a 15-week special agent basic training program for acclimation into the bureau.